Remembering Paula Cangialosi
The doorbell rang at 10:20 AM. From my office in the back I could hear the squeaky door hinges announcing some unexpected visitors.
“Hello!”, someone proclaimed. Seconds later, a barking dog ran into my office. He jumped up on the sofa and looked around.
“Oh hello!”, I replied to him. “You must be a talking dog who knows this place very well.” But before I got too excited about my talented new four-legged friend, his owner appeared at my office door.
“No, unfortunately he doesn’t talk. Otherwise, I’d make him tell me why he’s always barking. My name is Paula, and this is my dog Joey. We used to be here often to visit the founder, Msgr. Carroll-Abbing. We have been involved with this organization for a very long time. I stopped by to welcome you in your new position. How may I help you?”
This happened about four years ago on one of my very first days with A Chance In Life. Paula Cangialosi came unannounced and unexpectedly into my life … and had a tremendous impact on the development of our organization.
Starting that day, Paula was a mentor, a friend and an even more generous donor. Most importantly, she was someone who was always there for me and the organization in good times and bad. And thanks to her, we had mostly good times.
Paula encouraged me to take the risky step of embracing a new global approach for our organization. Together, we made a proposal to change the name from Boys’ & Girls’ Towns of Italy to A Chance In Life. She was there for me every time I had questions about starting a new program in a faraway country. She shared my insatiable desire to provide a chance in life to as many children as possible around the world, building on the foundations of our visionary founder. She organized several events in her home, inviting friends and sharing the good news of how our organization went from helping 100 children in Rome to supporting more than 3,000 kids every year in almost every continent. Through it all, Paula was always there with me.
For these reasons, she was asked to become a member of our board in December of 2018. As fate would have it, we became board members on the same day.
A few days before our Wine & Spirits event this past November, I sent her a text message. I hadn’t heard from her in a while and I was worried. I received a terse reply: “I need to talk with you.” A few minutes later I received a phone call that broke my heart. “I have cancer. It could be a week … or two months … I am sorry I can’t help with your upcoming event. I know you will do very well anyway.”
I started crying and could not speak. Her voice was soft, yet strong and encouraging. After the event, I sent her another message. “Paula, the event was amazing, but we missed you so much. How are you?”
She never replied. On November 26, she left us … departing as unexpectedly as she had arrived at my door four years ago.
If Paula were still here today, she would tell me – with her loving, no-nonsense attitude – to stop crying and move on because there are many more girls and boys who need a chance in life. Paula spent decades of her life working to make the world a better place. Now, I want to do something for her. I want to establish a scholarship to help young girls in her name.
A Chance In Life will start this year by supporting a group of young women in the outskirts of Kampala in Uganda. Supported by a local charitable organization, they will receive seed money to study, become hairdressers and open their own business together. Most of them are very young teenagers, and many are single mothers. Any funds raised beyond the needs of this program will be given in Paula’s name on an annual basis to empower young women around the world.
I hope you will join me today in continuing Paula’s incredible legacy of leadership and compassion.
Paula, thank you. This is for you.